Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
13 Apr

Small, and Not So Small, Farms You Can Trust

farmersmarketShortly after writing the cold cuts post, in which I gave Applegate Farms some praise for being “one of the good ones,” I received an email from a perceptive reader who had a slightly different appraisal of the situation. Applegate Farms, it turns out, doesn’t raise any animals themselves. There’s no farm to visit. They source all their animals from outside farms. Now, there’s nothing wrong with sourcing meat from outside sources, especially when you make a concerted effort to procure good meat from well-raised animals, but I’ll admit that this does change things a bit for me. My idea of the ideal meat producer, however romantic, outdated, or unrealistic it might be, is one that handles every single aspect of the business in house: from raising the animals to feeding them feed grown on site, to tending their pastures, to slaughtering them (or, as the law requires, having them slaughtered at a USDA-inspected “harvesting site”), all the way to curing, slicing, and distributing the meat and related products. I like shaking the hand that castrated the calf, scratched the pig’s snout, and collected the egg, as the other slides me a vacuum-sealed package of short ribs at the Saturday morning farmers’ market.

Am I being overly romantic about a messy, bloody process? Perhaps. Unimportant in the big scheme of things? Maybe the farming practices responsible for your burger don’t matter on some cosmic scale, especially next to wars, poverty, unemployment, or even your mortgage, but on a personal level they certainly do. Unrealistic, on a wide scale? For now, yes, but without customers demanding it become more common, it will remain so indefinitely. That means it’s on you and it’s on me to make it realistic.

There are also solid, less “idealist” reasons for supporting farms that do it all. For one, you know what you’re getting. Or, to be more accurate, they know what they’re selling. As much as a company pledges to maintain strict standards of quality and care, if they aren’t personally caring for, observing, and raising the animals, there is room for error. And as business grows and they’re forced to draw on more sources to maintain supply, things get dicier. Corners may be cut. That one ranch might feed grain on the sly to get weight up in time for slaughter. Or it might be that the truly grass-fed farmers simply can’t keep up with the demands of the distributor. Whole Foods just doubled their grass-fed hot dog orders for next month; what if the Uruguayan beef isn’t available in time? As one Paleohacks user noted, his package of Applegate Farms roast beef via Trader Joe’s was discreetly labeled “Vegetarian Grain-Fed,” contrary to their website’s strong implication that all Applegate Farms beef is grass-fed. He sent some emails and made some calls, eventually speaking to someone who confirmed that sometimes they will release grain-fed when grass-fed “is not available.” It’s a little odd that they push the grass-fed thing on the website only to discard it in practice. Well, maybe not odd, exactly, but it’s too bad that grass-fed isn’t always available. Ultimately, money wins out.

The reader who alerted me thought I could, and should, have focused on those meat producers that were really doing it the right way. I’m inclined to agree, with a caveat. Applegate Farms is serving a valuable purpose. They’re offering (mostly) grass-fed beef products and various other animal products (the sources of which vary in quality and pedigree) to large markets, and that’s a good thing. When the kids want to BBQ hot dogs, I like that grass-fed dogs are widely available. That said, let’s look at some producers who keep things in house. Surprisingly, they aren’t always tiny family farms with a distribution composed solely of high-end restaurants and farmers’ markets.

Like Diestel Family Turkey Ranch, located in the Sierra foothills and run by the same family that’s run it since 1949. While young turkeys are kept penned in for their own safety, after six weeks the turkeys live on the range, using shrubs and trees for roosting and shelter. In fact, the Diestels coined their own term – “range grown” – to differentiate their methods from “free range,” a term that frankly doesn’t mean a whole lot at this point. They’re fed a “vegetarian diet,” but I doubt the birds turn up their waddles at the delicious grubby bugs sharing the range with them. Diestel processes hundreds of thousands of turkeys. They raise them all. They process them all using their own facilities. This is a massive operation, but it’s run like a smaller farm. They distribute the whole turkeys themselves, make deli products from the meat, and distribute that, too. I’ve purchased whole turkeys (delicious), cases of frozen turkey hearts (Buddha’s favorite snack), and used their deli meat (wrapped around a slab of aged cheddar and some young goat cheese is the way to do it). In case you’re skeptical a massive operation can maintain quality while keeping everything in house, consider that when a Sacramento food co-op (think patchouli, a preponderance of vegetarians, smugness, and awesome bulk grain bins!) looked into Diestel’s practices (PDF), they left very impressed. (Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Diestel farms so I reached out to them to be a sponsor of PrimalCon. They’re donating meat to this year’s event.)

Fork in the Road Foods is an example of the Applegate Farms-esque model done right. CA-based, they’re a bunch of chefs, foodies, and farmers who obtain only pasture-raised beef, heirloom pork, and pasture-raised chicken and turkey from small family farms and turn it all into delicious hot dogs, sausages, and deli meat. I’ve run across their miniature pastured wieners at Whole Foods before, marveled at the novelty of a grass-fed Vienna sausage lookalike, and was forced to make the purchase. I’m glad I did. It’s quality stuff. Knowing that they only work with real stewards of the land helps, too. Of course, they remain pretty small and agile, and if they reach Applegate Farms proportions, things might change. But maybe not. We’ll never know unless we keep supporting small operations like Fork in the Road Foods. To see if they distribute to your area, enter your zip and find out.

Going even more local, I wanted to give some love to one of my favorite beef and pork farms. It’s Rocky Canyon Farms, located in Atascadero, CA, so old-school that they don’t even have a web presence yet (if ever). They sell mainly at SoCal farmers’ markets and to high-end restaurants. The owner, Greg, is a husky, friendly farmer who feeds his cattle grass and leftover veggies and lets his pigs roam. His main representative at the Santa Monica market is a slightly crazy, extremely enthusiastic dude named Mike. Mike will often toss in some melons (they grow several varieties), squash (again, many varieties), tomatoes, or sweet potatoes with my meat for free. Mike will also eat sweet potatoes raw. Seriously, if you’re ever at the Saturday morning SM farmers’ market, look for the lanky dude with a sleeveless T and wild eyes hawking meat, fruit, and juice. If he’s selling sweet potatoes that day, casually mention that you heard some people actually “eat these things raw.” That should be enough of a cue to get him to chomp down on one, skin and all. It’s a sight that must be beheld before you die. As for the actual meat, highlights include pork breakfast sausage (buy it in bulk, rather than pre-made patties), chuck steaks (economical, flavorful, fatty, tendony cut), bacon (arrive early for this, cause it sells out fast), various jerkies, beef tongue, ground beef w/bacon, and the various roasts. The prices are really quite reasonable, especially compared to a place like Whole Foods, and you’re cutting out the middle man. The money goes directly to the guy who raised the meat.

Anyway, those are three examples from California. One’s a massive operation with national distribution that manages to retain its autonomy. Another is an up and coming confederation of idealistic farmers, chefs, and eaters who want to make food the right way with the right ingredients, while the last is a hyper-local entity that will probably never see wide-scale distribution but who likes it that way. All take personal responsibility for the quality of the product, from beginning to end. All are to be admired (and supported). These work for me, in my neck of the woods. If you don’t yet have your own go-to farmer, visit EatWild to search and find one today.

Now tell me about your area. Where do you get your meat? Your eggs? Whose bloodstained (in the best way possible!) hand do you shake? Is there a larger operation in your neck of the woods that you trust and can look to with pride and say, “Those guys are doing it right in a big way”? Tell me – tell us – all about it in the comment section, so others can support them, too.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Is it really true that Applegate Farms does not have a farm? I buy their 100% Grass Fed Hot Dogs. I called them once to makes sure it was 100% grass-fed and they told me it was. I believed the lady and still do.

    I guess I did not ask if they, the company, actually feeds them all grass. Very interesting… I now think a little different about them. But, I will still buy the dogs for convenience!

    Primal Toad wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • I’ll add that I buy 95% of my meat from local farms right here in West Michigan, US Wellness Meats and Vital Choice Seafood.

      I enjoy Bear & Wolfs canned Salmon from Costco.

      Primal Toad wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • We previously used US Wellness Meats as well but have tapered off due to the fact that they are similar to Applegate. Case in point: the subprimal sirloin I loved and bought for a while is actually sourced out of Tasmania. We live in Colorado so that’s 15,000 miles for my grass-fed beef. We ended up using the EatWild website and found a farm about 20 miles from my house and ordered a side of grass-fed beef. Found a great farm for raw milk and bison as well.

        Bob Connors wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • I loved the EatWild link! Colorado has oodles of options for local grass fed beef. What Bison ranch did you find?

          FoCo Girl wrote on April 14th, 2011
    • Fred Meyer sells ‘grass-fed’ ground bison.
      When I asked them if it’s true (since Fred Meyer is a huge food chain store) they weren’t able to give me an answer.
      I contacted the bison farm myself via e-mail and the person in charge was very truthful and explained that once the bison leaves their prairie they’re put in a feedlot to be fattened up for 150 days by some middleman before slaughter.

      The bison farmers company name is on the package in fred meyer, yet he has nothing to do with the quality of the meat that ends up in the store after the animal leaves his pasture.

      That’s just how things work…it’s too bad really because I think they kinda care but got sucked into the whole money thing…

      There is no law atm that restricts the end product from having the label ‘grass-fed’ because at some point in the animals life it was true…even if it’s for 1 day.

      Grass-finished is what it needs to be.

      Suvetar wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Thanks for caring about where your food comes from! Please know that Applegate supports nearly 1000 midsized family owned farms in the U.S, Canada and Australia – thus we don’t own our farms. We’re proud of the fact that we work with many farmers that use sustainable and humane farming practices. We continually audit to make sure each farm is adhering to our very strict guidelines. We have multiple certified Professional Animal Auditors (through PAACO) on staff that spend time verifying our animal handling procedures. We’re about taste, truth and trust – and if you’d like to learn more about who we are, please feel free to check out our story, which I hope will explain more about our company and our mission: http://www.applegatefarms.com/ourstory.aspx. Thank you!

      Applegate wrote on April 14th, 2011
    • I talked to very large meat distributor recently, and he was explaining how far behind demand the organic and grass fed meat industry is. For obvious reasons grass fed beef is not as scalable as the Harris Ranch. Hopefully paleo people kick grass fed beef farming into high gear.

      Paleo Josh wrote on April 18th, 2011
    • I’d like to point out that many farmers had no choice but to purchase feed for their cattle over the last several years. This is due solely to drought.

      Actually, a lot of cattle are grass fed out west….it is cheaper; ranches “rent” federal lands (BLM) for next to nothing. Grazing also occurs within National Forests.
      Grazing cattle on grass til they go to market is not necessarily any different than “grass-fed” for many cattle. The torture comes during shipping and the time that they sit stuffed in the stock yards waiting to be slaughtered.

      But, Applegate farmers probably did have to BUY feed for their cattle due to horrible drought over the last several years. Pay attention people! Stop living in your snotty little bubble. I don’t support factory farming, but I understand that all kinds of meat production have some downsides (except hunting).

      I like Applegate so far.

      Joanne wrote on April 9th, 2014
  2. Lucky Pig Farms, Tenino WA. They make deliveries every other Sunday. It’s a family run farm, right down to their 7-year old son. I get my eggs, chickens and some pork items from them.

    I used to get my beef and the majority of my pork from Thundering Hooves, based in Walla Walla, WA, until they shut down last month. Now their son-in-law and daughter have started a new venture, Blue Valley Meats, so I will be transitioning to them.

    And my favorite farm for bacon? Crying Rock Farm in Orting, WA. You go to the farm, can get up close to the pigs, then walk to the freezer and buy some bacon! Really makes you appreciate what the animal gives to us.

    Krys wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Thanks for the info on Washington farms, especially Walla Walla. I have been buying “pastured” beef, lamb, chicken and eggs from a ranch in Haines, Oregon, however, they are doing some restructuring and may not be as readily available.

      NWsenior wrote on April 13th, 2011
  3. Another California option: Prather Ranch. See http://www.pratherranch.com.

    Daniel wrote on April 13th, 2011
  4. “When the kids want to BBQ hot dogs, I like that grass-fed dogs are widely available.”

    I think grass fed beef is the dividing line between “hipster” paleo people and the rest of us.

    Grass fed beef simply isn’t a practical consideration for the vast majority of people. While your posts are almost always excellent whenever I see ones like this I just think “must be nice to live in California”.

    JohnC wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • I live in a pretty rural area in the east and the only local farm that has grass fed beef is still only 50% grass fed, meaning 50% of the cattle’s feed is from rotational grazing, and that’s not including winter, when they have to switch to local grown hay and other corn/soy products.

      But hey, it’s the best I can do and I’m not going to worry about it. The meat is excellent, the free range eggs are great, and the milk is to die for.

      Splint wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • In what world is HAY not considered grass? This is the part of the discussion that makes me shake my head in wonder at the disconnect. Silage and grass hay are still considered grass. Silage is even more nutritious than regular grass; Think cabbage vs sauerkraut.

        Even in a growing pasture, a heifer/steer is still going to encounter legumes-clover, etc. They seek them out for a reason-they taste good, and are higher protein than fescue/orchardgrass/bluegrass. And, in the fall, what happens to grass? It heads out, creating-guess what! Grain. It’s energy-dense with more fat than usual to allow wild animals to fatten before rut, and still survive the winter. It’s the same idea as ‘flushing’ ewes/cows before breeding…fertility increases during times of weight gain. Even the grass stems that do NOT head out increase in energy content, though it’s carbohydrate, not fat-low (near freezing) temps that are not killing frosts induce production of sugars that act as ‘antifreeze’ to protect the plants, and most pastures are seeded to plants that do this to the extreme, to increase the number of grazing days available.

        Carolyn wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • From the Stockman Grass Farmer:

          http://www.stockmangrassfarmer.net/cgi-bin/page.cgi?id=747

          MARCENAT, France: French researchers at the Herbivore Research Center have found that dairy cows eating grass silage produce milk that is higher in Beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids than those eating hay.

          The switch from grass silage to hay induced a rapid decrease in the concentration of beta-carotene and vitamin E and the color index of the milk in the first two weeks.

          Beta-Carotene in the milk had fallen to less than half the previous level after two weeks of hay feeding.

          Pools of beta-carotene in the adipose tissue of the animal also decreased by 40% when fed hay for two weeks.

          The French researchers said consumers can tell much about the diet of the cow producing the milk by observing the color of the milk.

          They found there was a definite correlation between the amount of yellow color seen in the milk and the amount of beta-carotene found in the milk. In other words, the yellower the milk appears, the healthier it is for you.

          Apparently, beta-Carotene, vitamins A and E, and the omega 3 fatty acids are very volatile and are negatively affected by the wilting process.

          Previous research in Wales found that unwilted silage produced higher omega-3 fatty acid concentrations than wilted silage.

          The French researchers also found that if hay was fed for less than two weeks, beta-carotene and vitamin E had enough persistence in the milk to largely offset this short period of hay feeding.

          Carolyn wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • I agree with you. I don’t have a problem with it at all, but the farm feels like it must divulge that the cows are not 100% fed through grazing. In the winter they say they sometimes need to buy outside feed which they cannot vouch for as far a QC goes.

          Mainly their products are fantastic and the conditions on the farm are excellent. That’s really all I care about.

          Splint wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • Grass seed is to grain what steroids are to drug-free bodybuilding.

          I’ve seen people point this out before about pasture grazing, that the grass goes to seed anyway, but it’s a whole world of difference between feeding cattle that and feeding them corn. Cattle are one animal whose fatty acid profile changes little between grain-finishing and grass-finishing, the omega-6 level stays roughly the same, but grain-finished cattle have pretty much no omega-3.

          Dana wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Heh, I buy and eat grass-fed beef. Now grass-fed hotdogs do sound a little silly to me, since it’s already a processed item made of meat by-products, condiments/flavorings, and other “fillers” (speaking of un-cured dogs here). You don’t use the “better” parts of an animal for hotdogs, you use the parts that you cannot sell otherwise. That’s all good, as far as hotdogs go, but to insist on such a product to still be grass-fed, well, I don’t see the point.

      Carlos wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • Did you ever stop to think what those by-products are? I don’t know about hot dogs, but I’ve bought summer sausage that has beef hearts in it.

        Just because it won’t sell doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Hearts don’t sell in the general population except for the occasional weirdo who puts their pets on a raw diet. Tallow doesn’t sell either. Would you say either is unhealthy? I wouldn’t.

        The increased omega-3 in grass-finished beef translates to increased omega-3 in grass-finished hot dogs, that’s what’s the point.

        Dana wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • “the occasional weirdo who puts their pets on a raw diet. ”

          I resemble that remark LOL.

          Rusa wrote on April 14th, 2011
        • I resemble that remark as well

          Tori wrote on April 18th, 2011
    • I guess it just depends on where you live. I live in NE Kansas. We are the 2nd largest beef-producing state next to Texas, so there are cattle ranches everywhere. Grass-fed and finished beef is pretty available, especially in this part of KS. Prices anywhere from $3 to 5$ a pound. I’m a college student, and even I can afford that. I take solace in the fact that I know this beef tastes better, is better for me, and is great for the environment and the cows themselves. I also like knowing that I am helping out an honest farmer who loves what he does.

      I would say that if you are in an area where you can’t get large quantities of reasonably-priced grass-fed beef, perhaps make it something to splurge on every once in a while. Like Mark said, the only way this stuff is going to become more widely available is if we vote with our wallets.

      Adam R wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • I live in NE (ish) Kansas too (though I root for the other team…). If you don’t mind me asking, where do you get your beef? I’ve been looking around for good grass fed beef but haven’t found anywhere with prices that good.

        Larry wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • We like Homespun Hill Farm (Baldwin City, KS). They deliver to Lawrence and Olathe. Not so cheap, but good quality!

          CB wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • Gasper Family Farm are also some good folks who are using diversified practices (think along the lines of Salatin) on a small family farm. They’re located in Ft Scott and have a dropoff in Overland Park. If you want grassfed dairy, they’re one of the only options in NE Kansas that I found. (And dang, is it delicious — I have a hard time bringing myself to drink storebought milk after getting used to theirs, but I moved away :-( )

          Via wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • The vast majority of people don’t want to be inconvenienced to find grass-finished meats in their area. If it is not at the corner market, they are not willing to go to the effort to find a farmer.

      There is nothing “hip” about buying meats raised in their natural environment and handle with care and respect.

      Steph wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • “Natural environment”? Seriously?

        There’s not much that’s natural about a cow regardless of what people feed it.

        JohnC wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • It’s just as natural as we are. We’re not exactly functioning at our natural baseline either.

          That’s no excuse for treating living things like machines, though. I don’t like seeing that done to people either.

          Dana wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • If it were hip, everyone would be doing it, by definition.

        Dana wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Umm, my best friend lives in WV (not exactly farm county) and she gets grass-fed beef for $2.50lb.

      Jennifer wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • Wow! Do you happen you know the name of the farm she buys from? I’m in MD, but that might be worth a trip!

        Jules wrote on April 14th, 2011
      • Sorry- I know this is a reply to a slightly old post- BUT could you please please please find out the name of the farm your friend uses? Im in WV as well and I would love to find some places to get good meats and hopefully milk. Im not having much luck as you pointed out, its not exactly farm country.

        Carol wrote on February 16th, 2013
    • There are several operations across the country that ship nationally. U.S. Wellness Meats is one. A lot of what gets in the way of people doing the grass-finished/pastured thing, well, it’s kind of multifactorial:

      1. Not wanting to deal with frozen meat for whatever reason

      2. Not organized enough to plan ahead to thaw meat for meals

      3. Not wanting to prepare their own foods from scratch

      Usually it’s one of those issues a lot more than it is the money. And I know that because restaurant eating has hit an all-time high in the U.S., including fast-food restaurants. Not to mention the upswing in industrial prepackaged meals. If people really cared about money they wouldn’t be throwing it away on that stuff.

      I should say “we” because this is something I’m struggling with too. So it’s not just theory to me. I live this stuff and I see other people living it as well.

      There’s a fine line between “I can’t” and “I won’t.”

      Dana wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • Actually I think you missed the main reason why people do not buy grassfed meats… It is not in the grocery store. Truthfully in southeast AR the area is so poor that it is unusual to even see anything organic although there are many more choices now than when I moved here 5 years ago. Ordering all of your meat online takes quite a bit of planning and generally a large sum of money at once which can be challenging.

        Emily wrote on April 14th, 2011
    • Food-wise, it is quite nice. But what’s your rent like? You can’t get a 2 bedroom apartment around here for less than $1200 a month. 3 bedroom suburb houses with small backyards are $800,000.
      It must be nice to live wherever you are.

      Sara wrote on April 15th, 2011
  5. We buy our beef from a local Amish farmer who sells by the 1/4 cow only 1-2 times a year. We get chicken and turkey from him too if available. Thanks for the resources for the options on hot dogs and deli meats though… nice to have those too sometimes!

    Katie @ Wellness Mama wrote on April 13th, 2011
  6. i really liked the introduction pointing out that we as customers have influence on whats going to happen in the futer by voting with our money and chosing carefully whom to give it.

    Samson wrote on April 13th, 2011
  7. There are few places here in the Northeast which stock Applegate Farms, but I gotta say, their “Sunday Bacon” is far and away the best bacon I’ve ever had.

    VVK wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • I couldn’t agree more. I eat Applegate Organic Sunday Bacon for breakfast almost every day. Best bacon I’ve ever tasted. On the rare occasions where I have to settle for a different brand, I am always a little disappointed.

      Jon wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Yup, I cook this in my home on a regular basis and love it!

      Aaron Blaisdell wrote on April 13th, 2011
  8. I buy local honey from a farm in Dickinson, TX and I recently began purchasing from Law Ranch Cattle Company (www.lawranch.com). There’s a Farmer’s Market I’ve begun going to regularly every Saturday and another one I’ve been meaning to check out across town.

    Scott wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Scott, I’m in Clear Lake – small world! What’s the name of the honey farm? I’ve been looking for something good and very local, but everything seems to come out of the Austin area.

      Stephanie wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • If you are looking for grassfed beef in the Houston area, there is a farm in Brenham that delivers. Check out http://www.yonderwayfarm.com. They also have poultry, pork, eggs, and you can get some raw milk through them, too. Great place, great people.

        Angie wrote on April 15th, 2011
  9. Thank you for a great post, however, I must take exception to your description of the Sacramento Natural Food Co-op.

    “In case you’re skeptical a massive operation can maintain quality while keeping everything in house, consider that when a Sacramento food co-op (think patchouli, a preponderance of vegetarians, smugness, and awesome bulk grain bins!) looked into Diestel’s practices (PDF), they left very impressed.”

    I worked for that co-op around 18 years ago. We parted company on not very good terms. Because there are many wonderful sources of healthy foods closer to my house, I had not been back until yesterday. There didn’t seem to be any patchouli or smugness.

    Eighteen years ago, there was a small, barely tolerated counter selling fish and fowl. Now, Grok heaven! A wonderful, bloody mess of local, grass-fed beef, lamb and BUFFALO. Grass-fed buffalo!

    Despite the fact that my cart contained about 15 lbs of meat, no one sneered at me. The couple ahead of me looked like your stereotypical Deadheads, buying lots of meat substitutes. But they were very friendly, not judgmental about my Grokness.

    Sacramento may not be a world class city in most respects, but for being primal, it is. Wonderful food sources, farm to table restaurants, fantastic bike trail, nearby mountains and beaches.

    Harry wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • I’m glad someone else put in a plug here for SNFC (Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op). I used to work at the store as well (in its and my vegetarian days) and have stayed involved as a board member and owner-worker since then. Great source of eggs, meat, sustainable fish, all organic produce, etc. Though since going primal I “shop the perimeter” mostly. I would not call it smug at all. Food co-ops by and large are on the front lines of offering local, organic, sustainable food and have been for decades–way before Whole Foods and Trader Joes. They support small farmers (Sacramento and other Northern California co-ops have a One Farm at a Time program to raise money for agricultural easements to keep small farms in farming instead of turning into suburbs). And, they are owned by their shoppers. Please support a co-op if you have one in your area!

      Paige wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • I’ll chime in to agree the Sacramento Co-op is great! Plenty of meat, tons of local veggies, and EVERYONE I have encountered is glad to help. I moved away 3 years ago to PDX and the head cashier still remembers me when I stop in. PDX co-ops are not as good as Sacramento but at least we have New Seasons!

        Jennifer wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • No patchouli? How disappointing. I *like* patchouli.

      (It is one of those love-hate fragrances. I have yet to meet anyone who was lukewarm about that scent.)

      Dana wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • They may SELL patchouli. I didn’t look. But I detected none in the air.

        Hedonist wrote on April 14th, 2011
  10. If you are in South Carolina, Caw Caw Creek sells THE BEST pork I have ever put in my mouth. All the pigs are raised free range and get to feed themselves and procreate when they like. The owner is more than willing to talk to customers about his farm and his products are getting a lot of press from chefs in Atlanta and Charleston!

    Jesse wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Thank you Jesse! A customer just called and was referred to us through this site and your generous comment! I appreciate your support and enthusiasm!

      Emile DeFelice wrote on February 8th, 2012
  11. There’s a great butcher in Ottawa (Canada) that does all the legwork in finding the right local farmers. Aubrey’s Meats! They’re awesome. I can get grass-fed at another place as well, but the best grass-fed beef I get is straight off the farm in a small town just outside Ottawa – LJ Helferty’s.

    http://www.totallynaturalbeef.ca

    Graham wrote on April 13th, 2011
  12. I’m incredibly privileged to have a wonderful family farm who supplies our family with milk, cream, eggs, grass fed beef; and pastured pork, chicken and turkey as well as raw pet food for my cats. This family operates a solid holistically managed farm and I implicitly trust I am getting quality food from them all the time. Janeen, the “voice” of the farm is very knowledgeable about primal eating & is also very passionate about what she does. The farm is operated by Janeen and her husband Sam and her parents Lyle & Grace. Lyle is the butcher and all the animals are raised, slaughtered & processed right on the farm! They deliver to our city once a month and I always look forward to delivery days! Check them out: http://coolspringsranch.ca!!

    Robin wrote on April 13th, 2011
  13. I’ve just sourced some local free range eggs and the rich colour and taste is just amazing! I got a chance to checkout the hens and they were busy doing their own thing, outside in the sun and grass, pecking at the ground finding insects… The way it’s meant to be!

    Evolutionarily wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Isn’t the difference remarkable? Most of the egg yolks I see are almost dark orange, crazy. Way different than the pale yellow supermarket eggs I was used to.

      And of course the taste is incomparable.

      Splint wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • There are probably many reasons to eat free range eggs but taste is most definitely not one of them.

        Numerous studies have been done on this and in a blind taste test no one has yet been able to discern any difference between free range eggs or factory farm eggs. Here’s just one of many many links you can find that confirm this:
        http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/08/what-are-the-best-eggs-cage-free-organic-omega-3s-grocery-store-brand-the-food-lab.html

        JohnC wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • Yeah yeah, and people always used to tell me I couldn’t possibly tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, or a drink sweetened with cane sugar versus a drink sweetened with corn syrup, or that I couldn’t possibly tell the difference between Miller Lite and Coors Lite.

          All I can say to that is do you want to do a little test? I’ve never lost money any time I was tested.

          I feel sorry for you if you can’t tell the difference in taste between a fresh farm eggs and factory supermarket eggs.

          Splint wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • That’s one study and I have no earthly idea what those hens were fed. Yes, they eat bugs, from what the author says. But I don’t know what their feed is. And even free-range, pastured chickens are given feed by their handlers.

          From what I understand, the vast, vast majority of chicken feeds available on the market contain soy. I would be curious to see a taste test done with that green dye trick and with a batch of eggs from soy-free chickens.

          Maybe it won’t make a difference… but maybe it will.

          Dana wrote on April 13th, 2011
        • I actually have a free-range chicken, but have to supplement with grocery store eggs. The taste is really not different, however, when you crack them open the color and consistency is very different. The free-range is very yellow and the white part is a very firm gel, while the grocery store is pale and runny. Once cooked it’s all the same, but a little different looking.

          Emily wrote on April 14th, 2011
  14. I live outside the DC area. We buy from an Amish farmer who comes in to the city every two weeks. I have a bison farmer we buy from most weeks. There also several meat farmers at local farmers markets that I buy from regularly.

    And I buy hot dogs from Applegate for my 4 year old regularly. They are an easy school lunch. His teacher reportedly offered him ketchup and he asked if it had high fructose corn syrup or artificial food dyes in it. She backed away quickly and hasn’t offered it to him since.

    We do spend a lot of money on food and I have spent a lot of timing sourcing it. When we visit family in small town New England we bring a cooler of meat with us. I have found some vendors there I trust but it easier just to bring it along.

    bookluvingbabe wrote on April 13th, 2011
  15. Some of the best beef I’ve ever eaten was some “road” kill from my wife’s uncle. He was tending to his cows out in the field one day and accidentally ran over one of his cow’s legs. It was too far gone to fix, so he had to put it down and turned it all into ground beef. The cow was young enough that he hadn’t started fattening it up on grains yet… and it was delish! (and just $3/lb!)

    Kevin wrote on April 13th, 2011
  16. HonoredPrairie.com is a fellowship of family farms that services Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. I get all my beef, pork, eggs and recently even salmon from them.

    Adam wrote on April 13th, 2011
  17. If you’re in southeast Georgia, check out Hunter Cattle (www.huntercattle.com). I’ve been buying from them for about a year now and they’re great! Friendly people, great meat and decent prices. PLUS, they offer custom cuts. They’ve supplied me with tongue, heart, liver, and suet (in addition to more traditional cuts). I’m trying to get up the courage to ask about brains!

    yodiewan wrote on April 13th, 2011
  18. Getting of the meat train here, I have just started ordering a bi-weekly box of veggies from Farm Fresh to You, arrives on my doorstep and looks and tastes great. http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/index.php

    domoh wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Veggies are easy. Even apartment dwellers can grow a few if their apartments get enough light. Meat’s the difficult one.

      Dana wrote on April 13th, 2011
  19. We live just outside DC and I buy local grass fed from Smith Family Farm in Manassas, VA. They come to the local farmers market. I’ve also bought from Polyface Farms, and they deliver locally as well.

    MBH wrote on April 13th, 2011
  20. If you’re ever in the Madison, Wisconin area, check out the Dane County Farmers Market (http://www.dcfm.org/). There are too many producers to name, but you’re not allowed to sell at our farmers market if you haven’t raised/grown/produced your wares yourself. It’s amazing and gigantic and serves up every meat and veggie you can think of and then some (Emu-meat, anyone?)

    Nitha wrote on April 13th, 2011
  21. If anyone is in the area of the Sierra Foothills, check these guys out:
    http://flyingmulefarm.com/

    USDA certified grass fed Cows, sheep and goats. Their whole family is involved in the farm, and they are very active in the community as well. Plus, ditching the tractor and opting for mule power? Awesome. I can’t say enough good things about Flying Mule Farm. :)

    Emerald wrote on April 13th, 2011
  22. If you’re driving down I-40 in Tennessee between Nashville and Knoxville, get off at the Hwy 111 exit north to Algood and go see the Garrett Farms store. They sell locally grown, mostly grass-fed Angus beef. It’s very affordable, especially if you buy in quantity.

    The barbecue on the weekends is very good also.

    I love the Applewood bacon.

    shannon wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • I mean Applegate.

      shannon wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • I know Mr. Garrett and I was told by him that he finishes beef on grain. That was over a year ago, so he may have changed.

      mrl wrote on April 16th, 2011
  23. If you have an “Edible Publication” for your region – I live in Upstate NY and have Edible Finger Lakes, they are a brilliant resource for finding what’s being grown (in the dirt and on the hoof) locally.

    We may have to endure some cold winters in Upstate but here in the Ithaca/Trumansburg area we are truly blessed with not only loads of wild animals that will occasionally make them self available to a sure shot but a great many amazing meat and vegetable producers.

    rick rainey wrote on April 13th, 2011
  24. I get most of my meat through a CSA from Chestnut Farms (chestnutfarms.org) – they distribute all over MA. They raise cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep and goats for meat and also sell chicken eggs. By far the most delicious meat I’ve ever eaten, and they know every single animal on their small farm. CSA and farmers markets only, they have decided not to spread to local grocery store distribution so that they can stay true to their ideals. Awesome!

    jennf wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Yes! I love Chestnut Farms! I buy about 90% of my meat from them when available at my farmer’s market. I have yet to buy a CSA from them, but that’s on my to-do list!

      Heather wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • I just joined the Chestnut Farms CSA this year. I can’t wait to get my first share!

      Jon wrote on April 13th, 2011
  25. Odd, I was comforted by the fact that Applegate buys their meat from small farmers (for some reason I always knew this about them). I had this vision of any company that large trying to raise that much meat themselves having to make some “factory” like decisions, but buying from small family farms instead allowed the farmers to continue raising animals in ways that simply can’t be done en masse. I mean, no doubt getting the bulk of your meat from local farms (I’m lucky, we have lots here) is a better choice, but the fact that Applegate isn’t also the FARMER (let the farmers farm!) actually makes it more appealing to me as far as a big national brand goes.

    Mama wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Applegate gets their beef from Uruguay and sometimes Australia. Of course, they could be Uruguayan family farms!

      Erik Cisler wrote on April 13th, 2011
      • Yeah but importing meat is stupid when we can quite easily raise our own. I don’t understand this global distribution system where people buy things from California and Florida and Chile that they can just as easily grow in their own backyards. Waste of fuel. Didn’t the Deepwater Horizon thing bother anyone?

        Dana wrote on April 13th, 2011
  26. I’ve been getting a portion of my chicken from Rainbow Ranch Farms, a local So-Cali CSA. I’m hoping to get in on their next pork share as well. The chickens are delicious and the bones make amazing stock. Unfortunately they’re seasonal though, and don’t have poultry in the colder months.

    Used to get grassfed beef from J&J, but they seem to have stopped coming to our local farmer’s market, so I guess I’m on the lookout for another Cali based source.

    jj wrote on April 13th, 2011
  27. Jesse-

    Where is Caw Caw Creek? I live in Charleston and love all things pork. It was be awesome to check it out. Thanks.

    Shaun wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Caw Caw Creek is located in St. Matthews. I always chat with Emile at the All-Local Farmer’s Market in Columbia (which he founded). According to their website, there’s one place in Charleston to get it (or you can get mail order): Sewee Outpost. Link to locations is at http://cawcawcreek.com/buy-local.html . Or, to avoid the markup, order online. Just have to pay $15 shipping. Enjoy!

      Keith wrote on April 14th, 2011
  28. I live near Denver, and I source most of my meat at Rocky Plains in Loveland and Dacono http://www.rockyplains.com. I can also attest to the great taste of Diestel turkeys, which I obtain every Thanksgiving at Whole Foods. Especially after a dry salt/herb brine! Eggs from Grant Farms or Wisdom Poultry are great, as is the chicken from Wisdom Poultry (tasty but tough). You can find Wisdom Poultry at the Boulder Farmers Market. There is also a lamb/goat purveyor at the Boulder Farmers Market with wonderful meat.

    Rusa wrote on April 13th, 2011
  29. Mark:

    Here in Asheville, NC, I’ve been buying grass fed beef, pastured pork, and eggs from Hickory Nut Gap Farms. Fantastic family operation. The ribs are to die for! (They also gathered up 10 lbs of good grass-fed fat which rendered out for cooking and making pemmican.) Grok On!

    David Pryor wrote on April 13th, 2011
  30. I hit up Skagit River Ranch for wonderful grass-fed beef at the Ballard Farmer’s market in Seattle. They also sell pork products that are partially grain fed. Their bacon is superb! I also am able to get pastured eggs & chickens at this same farmer’s market, and plenty of organic veggies to round out my CSA box. We also like the raw milk & cream from Sea Breeze Farm. Plus, I love the old hippie who sells succulent plants – he’s a hoot. :)

    Mmmm.... wrote on April 13th, 2011
  31. In Georgia, check out Nature’s Harmony Farm – http://www.naturesharmonyfarm.com. Tim and Liz raise pigs, cows, lamb, turkeys, ducks, rabbits and chicken. They also make some delicious cheese.

    Meredith wrote on April 13th, 2011
  32. Thanks for this great post! This is so encouraging to small-scale farmers like my husband and me. We raise pastured chickens and lambs in Western Washington, and really care about our animals – how they are raised and how they are slaughtered and processed. For us, it is part of the integrity of our operation, and we know that we are offering our customers the very best that we can.

    Sarah wrote on April 13th, 2011
  33. Olympia Local Foods in Olympia,WA is a good source for eggs, chickens, beef and pork all from local farmers. They have a website. You place your order online and go to their warehouse to pick it up. They also sell a variety of produce. A husband and wife run it–very friendly people.

    Susan wrote on April 13th, 2011
  34. I’ve just started getting beef from the SMS Ranch. They’re located in Fredericksburg, TX, but have a booth at the downtown Austin farmer’s market on Saturdays. Here’s their website: http://www.fredericksburg-grassfed-beef.com

    AustinGirl wrote on April 13th, 2011
  35. One of our friends works for a sustainable seafood company in San Francisco:

    http:///www.ilovebluesea.com

    The prices are comparable to WF, but all of their sources are the best possible. They will ship anywhere, but the cost for shipping gets a little high outside of the Bay Area unless you buy a lot.

    We get pork products from TLC Ranch, eggs from TLC or Vital farms (used to get them from Glaum until WF started carrying Vital’s pastured eggs). For beef, we cowpool with others at our Crossfit and use a couple of small local family farms – Winterport and Moon Meadow.

    Nice to know about Diestel. We buy their turkey products but I was always a little wary knowing how big of an operation they have. Glad to know they are doing things right. Heritage turkeys are just too costly outside of very special occasions.

    Kris wrote on April 13th, 2011
  36. Diestel Ranch has been known to have turkey waste pollute local tributaries. It may be accidental, but not sure it can be avoided with such a large operation.

    Cathy wrote on April 13th, 2011
  37. Mark, I could kiss you!

    I live just a few miles South of Atascadero (in San Luis Obispo), and I had no idea these guys existed, despite my best efforts to find an operation like theirs.

    I’ll be heading up there for the farmer’s market this afternoon!

    -Kit

    Kit Perkins wrote on April 13th, 2011
  38. What about Niman Ranch? I live in Brooklyn, NY and after I found out the butcher I was buying “grass fed” beef from was basically lying (when pressed he finally admitted that it only eats grass as a baby, then off to the factory feedlot – so does eating a BLADE of grass make you grass fed??)

    I switched over to another butcher and he has Niman Ranch. Is that legit or another corporation without a ranch in sight?

    Kelly wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • All cows have to be grassfed in youth. They can not survive on grain for more than a few months. So essentially all beef is “grass fed”. The beef we’re after is “grass finished”… instead of being quickly fattened with corn on a feedlot, they grow to full size on pasture or sileage, which takes a lot longer.

      Niman Ranch is a company that has some of their own animals, but mostly contracts with other farms. They have some very good animal husbandry practices, but their cows are grain finished.

      jj wrote on April 14th, 2011
  39. I just bought a split side of beef from Lazy Heart D Ranch in Westmoreland, KS. If anyone is living in the Manhattan, KS area, I highly recommend them.

    All their beef is grass-finished, as is their bison. Their prices are very reasonable ($2.79/lb. hanging weight, processing costs are paid). Ed is a great guy, and he always gives me some extra products to take home and try. I ended up getting about 122 lbs. of meat with the offal included, and it was around $3.08/lb. Not bad for the quality.

    Adam R wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • Another really good Kansas ranch is Lucky Star Farms in Eureka, KS. I’ve only had their sirloin but it was the best piece of steak I’ve ever eaten, bar none. And that was just a sirloin. http://www.luckystargrassfedbeef.com

      Here in Kansas, we are lucky to have a good variety of grass fed beef choices.

      Steve wrote on April 14th, 2011
  40. Aw, it looks like I’m the only ND/MN person. So far I’ve found a CSA in Fergus Falls, MN to join – and I can also get chickens there. I’ve also found somewhere to get beef in Moorhead, MN. We have a couple farmer’s markets the 4 months out of the year when it’s not blizzarding… still wishing I could find a strawberry picking place near by. They tore up the fields to build housing! I sure miss them…

    Jennifer wrote on April 13th, 2011
    • No, you’re not the only Minnesotan here. Just one of the few out in the western boonies (I grew up in the Dawson-Boyd area – definitely BFE).

      Here in the Twin Cities we have access to several meat CSA’s. My favorite is Sunshine Harvest Farms (sunshineharvestfarm.com) out of Webster MN. They deliver to different places in the Cities three Thursdays a month, plus are at the Mill City and Kingfield Farmers Markets on Saturday and Sunday.

      They grass feed the beef and lamb from start to finish, the pigs and chickens are pastured & fed grain they grow themselves. If they had raw milk (haven’t heard if the bill passed in the legislature making it legal to sell raw milk in MN) it would be perfect.

      Kethry wrote on April 14th, 2011
      • They seem to have some decent choices in the cities area, but it’s a bit of a drive for me (I’m actually in Fargo, ND).

        It’s nice to find I’m not the only one in the area.. it gets lonely with the “WHAT?! You don’t eat wheat?!” comments. :D

        Jennifer wrote on April 14th, 2011

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